Defending champions Ulster have moved straight to the top of the IRFU Under-18 Girls Interprovincial table following a 37-12 bonus point win over Connacht in Virginia. Munster also posted a first round victory, edging out Leinster 17-14 in a hard-fought battle in Ballincollig.
IRFU UNDER-18 GIRLS INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 1: September 23-24
MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS 17 LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS 14, Ballincollig RFC
Scorers: Munster U-18 Girls: Tries: Orla Curtin 2; Cons: Ciara Clancy 2; Pen: Ciara Clancy
Leinster U-18 Girls: Tries: Grace Kelly, Megan Burns; Cons: Natasja Behan 2
HT: Munster U-18 Girls 7 Leinster U-18 Girls 14
Scrum half Ciara Clancy’s second half penalty steered the Munster U-18 Girls team to a narrow success against their Leinster counterparts in wet conditions at Ballincollig RFC last Saturday afternoon.
The visitors, coached by Niall Neville and captained by lock Judy Bobbet, had a first half wind advantage and put the early pressure on Munster, with Ali Miley and Tess Meade coming close on a number of occasions only to be denied by some solid defence.
Handling errors prevented Leinster from striking for the opening score until the 15th minute when a quick tap, five metres out, resulted in Tullow flanker Grace Kelly going over for the first try, converted by Natasja Behan from Gorey.
Munster head coach Eugene McCarthy would have been pleased with his side’s response. Having won the restart, they entered Leinster territory for the first time and were awarded a penalty after some strong carries from the forwards. Shannon hooker Orla Curtin soon drove over for the levelling seven-pointer, with Clancy supplying the extras.
As conditions worsened, Leinster were the happier of the two teams as they took a 14-7 lead into half-time. Out-half Megan Burns, one of the Ireland U-18 Sevens squad members on show, created a moment of magic in the 30th minute to carve open the Munster defence and cross the whitewash for Behan to convert.
As the second period got underway, with the wind picking up and the rain starting to become quite heavy, Munster set about getting back on level terms. Leinster had kept them in their 22 for much of the opening half, but now it was the hosts’ turn to hammer at the line.
Some excellent defending from the Leinster back row of Meade, Katelynn Doran and Kelly meant that Munster were held up a number of occasions but this would not last. Curtain claimed a well-worked second try from a lineout which saw the home side drive infield and then break away to score. Clancy’s conversion set up a fascinating finish at 14-all.
In what was a wonderful team effort on the day, a number of players stood out for Munster, namely captain and Ireland Sevens starlet Emily Lane who led by example at out-half, the boot of Enya Breen kept the Munster girls playing in the right areas of the pitch, full-back Muirne Wall remained solid under the high ball all game, while second row Sarah Garrett impressed in the lineout.
In terms of the game’s crucial score, having missed an earlier penalty, Shannon half-back Clancy made no mistake at the second time of asking to push Munster three points ahead in the closing quarter. Leinster worked tirelessly to move out of their half and create one final chance, but it never came due to their own errors and some resolute Munster defending.
Giving his reaction afterwards, Leinster head coach Neville said: “We knew this was going to be a tough game and even more so with the weather conditions making it very difficult for both teams. We had our chances in the first half and were unlucky not to take another score which was ultimately the difference in a very tight match. Munster knew what they had to do in the second half and, credit to them, they got the job done.”
MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS: Muirne Wall (Listowel), Maggie Boylan (Carrick-on-Suir), Stephanie Nunan (St. Mary’s), Enya Breen (Bantry Bay), Dorothy Wall (Fethard & District); Emily Lane (Mallow) (capt), Ciara Clancy (Shannon); Andrea Stock (Bantry Bay), Orla Curtin (Shannon), Hayley Betts (Shannon), Sarah Garrett (Fethard & District), Clare Bennett (Fethard & District); Katelyn Fleming (Cashel), Mary Hilda Hurley (Bantry Bay), Rebecca Hayes (Bandon).
Replacements: Annie Laffan (Carrick-on-Suir), Caroline Downey (Bantry Bay), Sarah O’Connor (Shannon), Rebecca Reilly (Listowel), Sarah O’Gorman (Newport), Lea Turner (Iveragh), Gemma Lane (Mallow), Jennifer Fogarty (Fethard & District).
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS: Bethany Sharpe (IT Carlow/Carlow Coyotes); Annie Maguire (Naas), Ali Miley (Naas), Natasja Behan (Gorey), Molly Fitzgerald (Navan); Megan Burns (Tullamore), Jane Waters (Tullamore); Meadbh O’Callaghan (Dundalk), Jess Keating (Old Belvedere), Casey O’Brien (Naas), Judy Bobbet (Garda/Westmanstown) (capt), Jessica Schmidt (Wicklow), Katelynn Doran (Port Darra), Grace Kelly (Tullow), Tess Meade (Ardee).
Replacements: Niamh Tester (Boyne), Ciara Moughty (Mullingar), Aimee Clarke (Railway Union), Nikki Gibson (Garda/Westmanstown), Maeve Scally (Mullingar), Zoe Valentine (Dundalk), Orlaith Murray (Garda/Westmanstown), Orla Molloy (Gorey).
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS 37 CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS 12, Virginia RFC
Scorers: Ulster U-18 Girls: Tries: Bethany McDowell 2, Mya Alcorn, Ellie Ingram 2, Lucy Turkington, Kelly McCormill; Con: Lisa Mullen
Connacht: Tries: Muireann Cawley, Aoibheann Reilly; Con: Meabh Deely
HT: Ulster U-18 Girls 22 Connacht U-18 Girls 0
Malone flanker Bethany McDowell and Ireland Under-18 Sevens international Ellie Ingram scored two tries apiece as Ulster launched their IRFU U-18 Interpro title defence with a 37-12 bonus point triumph over Connacht at Virginia RFC.
The Zoe Templeton and Charlie Farrell-coached home side scored seven tries in an attack-minded and free-flowing match last Sunday. The first of their scores came inside the opening five minutes when McDowell struck from close range after the backs had sent Connacht on the retreat by breaking from deep.
Three minutes later, Letterkenny’s Mya Alcorn showed a clean pair of heels to the Connacht defence as she ran in try number two from 40 metres out. Virginia’s own Lisa Mullen added the extras to put 12 points between the sides.
The Connacht girls, who are coached by Sinead Cosgrave and Dermot Tierney, bounced back with some excellent runs up the middle of the pitch, but pressure from the hosts forced a knock on. Quick hands and skilful support play then saw pacy Enniskillen winger Ingram touch down following a break by out-half Mullen.
Connacht’s pack, led by captain Sarah Dent, and hard-running centres Niamh Kenny and Beibhinn Parsons continued to put Ulster under pressure. Nonetheless, hard hits from forwards Emma Kearney and Keelin Brady and the boot of Mullen kept the westerners at bay.
Try number four came from a great pack effort, with blindside McDowell supplying the finishing touches to make it 22-0 for half-time, but the determined Connacht team answered back in spectacular fashion when Westport scrum half Muireann Cawley scored in the corner.
Ulster responded once again, bounding up the pitch with the fresh-legged Tammy Millar bursting through the Connacht defence several times. Good footwork from Kelly McCormill, who recently lined out for the Ireland U-18 Sevens side, sent Dungannon’s Lucy Turkington over for a try and, just moments later, some individual flair from Ingram saw her complete her brace.
Connacht kept their heads up and worked their way into the Ulster half for another well-worked try, winger Aoibheann Reilly crossing out wide for her Ballinasloe club-mate Meabh Deely to convert. However, in front of their home support, Ulster fittingly had the final say. They worked the ball through several phases and released the ever-impressive McCormill to seal her province’s 25-point winning margin.
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS: Ruth Gilsenan (Virginia); Mya Alcorn (Letterkenny), Kelly McCormill (Monaghan), Lucy Turkington (Dungannon), Ellie Ingram (Enniskillen); Lisa Mullen (Virginia), Amanda McQuade (Virginia); Emma Kearney (Armagh), Grace Shrestha (Dungannon) (capt), Ella Garland (Monaghan), Megan Brodie (Virginia), Caolinn McCormack (Virginia), Bethany McDowell (Malone), Katie Hetherington (Clogher Valley), Keelin Brady (Virginia).
Replacements: Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia), Tammy Millar (Enniskillen), Sorcha McCormack (Virginia), Ciara Byers (Virginia), Amber Redmond (Virginia), Ellie Rix (Enniskillen), Holly Brannigan (Malone).
CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS: Aine Gavin (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe); Aoibheann Reilly (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Niamh Kenny (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe); Shona Kennedy (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Muireann Cawley (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport); Claire Coghlan (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Mia Fahy (Galwegians/Glenamaddy Community School), Kayley Mannion (Galwegians/Glenamaddy Community School); Sarah Walsh (Westport/Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh), Jordan Hopkins (Galwegians/Calasanctius College Oranmore); Lily Brady (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Georgia Codyre (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Sarah Dent (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe) (capt).
Replacements: Claudia McNicholas (Galwegians/Colaiste na Coiribe, Galway), Mary McLoughlin (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Sarah O’Rourke (Buccaneers/Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone), Vanessa Finnan (Buccaneers/Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone), Eva McCormack (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Chloe Staunton (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Rachel Cox (Westport/Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh), Aisling Murphy (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe).
IRFU UNDER-18 GIRLS INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMIONSHIP – UPCOMING FIXTURES:
Saturday, September 30 –
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS (3rd) v ULSTER U-18 GIRLS (1st), North Kildare RFC, 1.30pm
CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS (4th) v MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS (2nd), Ballinasloe RFC, 3pm
Saturday, October 7 –
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS v CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS, MU Barnhall RFC, 1pm
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS v MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS, MU Barnhall RFC, 3pm